Rhossili Bay, Gower Peninsula, South Wales
I’ve never visited the Gower peninsula in Wales before….and what a treat! Ahead were 3 days with friends walking the south Gower coast in the most unseasonal mid-October weather – mild and humid. If you love coastal walking this is a stunning piece of British coastline. Rocky in parts with sheer cliffs giving way to small craggy coves and long sweeping curves of sand and waves. It’s picture book perfect and I can imagine on a bright blue sparkling day unbeatable. Sadly, no sunshine whilst I was there but that only added to the early autumn magic of this coastline; brooding clouds, booming waves and warm enough to cast off bulky walking gear.
So strapping on our walking boots we set off for the starting point of our circular walk which was a small carpark space just south of the B4247 opposite Lower Pitton Farmhouse and immediately before the Pitton Chapel. In 1886, twelve trustees for the society took a 999-year lease from the Penrice Estate of a plot of land in the north-east corner of a field tenanted by William Jones. On this site they had permission to build a Wesleyan chapel and were obliged to pay an annual rent of 10 shillings. This payment ceased when the chapel freehold was purchased in 1961.
Park here and don’t forget to put your £3 fee in the honesty box! Then set off south through the farm, taking the left hand fork in the path as you exit the farmstead. Follow the path along the side of 2 fields and then as it branches to the right hand side towards a steep, rocky valley leading down to the cliffs and sea. As you scramble over layers of scree you will see the sea below you and in 200 yrds you’ll reach a small rocky cove. To continue the walk turn right heading west and climb up the side of the cove where you’ll quickly pick up the coastal pathway.
At the top views in either direction are stunning as you can see all along the south Gower coast….back towards Port Eynon and westwards towards Thurba Head and beyond. The walk is fairly easy going - some heavy duty climbs interspersed with flat coastal paths. Occasionally the path narrows and is close to the cliff edge so if you’re slightly wary of heights it may not be the walk for you!
Follow the path on and you’ll reach the narrow steep sided inlet at Thurba Head. Depending on the state of the tide you’ll either have a rocky inlet swept by waves or a long sandy creek with shallow water for swimming. On the day we did the walk the tide was making its mind up and dogs were having a ball running at speed into the crashing waves.
Keep carrying onwards and upwards to follow the path across the cliffs towards the stunning Mewslade Bay Beach. Take care as you round the headland just before the bay as the path follows the very edge of the cliffs – best not look down! Mewslade Beach is so pretty – golden flat sands with rocky outcrops - white foamed waves and cliff edge caves for exploring. It’s not immediately obvious how best to access the beach but there are rough steps down through the rocky edges to the beach below. On a mid-October day the beach was quite magical and I can imagine on a summer’s day with blue sky the scene would be perfect. If you’re up for a bit of a march it’s far enough away from roads and carparks to make it a great get-away from marauding summer crowds.
Beyond Mewslade Bay the path turns upwards again and here you have the choice of climbing up and away from the cliff edge or if you’re not feint hearted stay low and follow a parallel pathway that skims along the beach cliff edges. Soon you will round the next stony outcrop to view the Worm’s Head Headland and Causeway. Depending upon the state of the tide Worm’s Head may be a cut off island or a rocky, jagged causeway leading out to the 'Worm' which is only exposed for two and a half hours before and after low tide. Here you’ll see the Old Coastguard Station perched on top of the cliffs. Apparently it is well placed as far too often people disregard the instructions to be aware of tides and become stranded on Worm’s head and cut off by incoming water.
As you turn inland again you’ll reach the little village of Rhossili which is perched above the spectacular beach of Rhossili Bay. Head to the balcony of The Worms Head Hotel for the most amazing views – surfers galore and an amazing beach stretching way out before you! From here you can follow the road back to your start point back at Lower Pitton but if you want to extend the walk – as we did - you can continue on up onto the summit of Rhossili Downs for spectacular 360 degree views of the Gower peninsula.
At the bottom of the eastern scarp of Rhossili Downs, about one and half miles north-east of Rhossili village, are two ‘former’ portal burial chambers (dolmens), standing around 100 metres apart, and called Sweyne’s Howes or ‘Sweyne’s How’. The place-name Howes refers to burial mounds or tumuli. In this case, Sweyne or Swain, according to legend, was a Scandinavian warlord of the early 11th century AD. (OS grid reference SS 4209 8982). There are other numerous prehistoric monuments in the vicinity of Rhossili Downs, dating from the Bronze-Age to the Iron-Age, that are worth exploring, including cairns, round barrows and a ring-fort.